Arrangers: Robert Glasper Trio; Gretchen Parlato; Lionel Loueke.
Gretchen Parlato is a rising star in vocal jazz circles of the 2000s who everyone should pay attention to and enjoy. Her singing is pure sterling silver, accented with just a hint of ethnic shadings and a big helping of modern style that goes well beyond standard fare. As alluring, distinct, and mature as her youthful instrument is, she deserves extra credit for choosing some of the most interesting young players who also are ascending to major-league status. Guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, keyboardist Aaron Parks, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Kendrick Scott are all leaders in their own right, but add bright and inventive accompaniment that perfectly matches the pristinely hopeful sounds Parlato expresses. The music taps from many sources, including a cute vocal variation of Herbie Hancock's funky "Butterfly," Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P." with rain forest imagery, scat, and quirky 6/8 beats, or Duke Ellington's "Azure" in adapted 5/4 time with Loueke's guitar and Hodge in late. Stevie Wonder's "I Can't Help It" is a pining, crossover, Latin-tinged love song as Parlato sings and Loueke scats and add mouth pops, while Dori Caymmi's skittering "Doralice" is easily representative of expanded tropicalia sensuality. Parks, much like his peer Robert Glasper, has the modern spirit song, loose-repeat-phrased-and-deep-harmonic piano style down pat. As you listen to the Glasper/Parlato joint composition "In a Dream," or the 7/8 meter of "Turning into Blue," you are enveloped in this thin veneer of cloudy, dream sequence sound that identifies the heart and soul of these unique musicians. "Weak" turns this concept into a rock/funk beat emphasized by Fender Rhodes electric piano juxtaposing choppy rhythms versus Parlato's sweet voice, whereas "On the Other Side" flips the script in a shuffle with percussion in shades of renewal and retrial. Gretchen Parlato is going to be a major player on the contemporary vocal music scene, jazz or not. IN A DREAM already shows vast potential realized, and is easily recommended to those who appreciate vocal music with an instrumentalist's concept.
JazzTimes (p.74) - "Her voice is a rare instrument, endowed with a seductively warm, ethereal quality yet sturdy as sequoia."
JazzTimes (p.35) - Ranked #8 in JazzTimes' "Top 50 CDs of 2009" -- "IN A DREAM seems wholly crafted of sweet reveries."
Billboard (p.45) - "[T]he most alluring jazz vocal album of 2009....Parlato sings with quiet, relentless and often-times unpredictable rhythmic grace."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.90) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Parlato's demure delivery is as delicate as new-spun gossamer..."